I have recently reached a new level of freedom in my life.
I no longer keep track of the money we spend. I finally figured out that I don’t have to.
Who should keep track of household expenditures
If you have ever read my book Hatching The Nest Egg, you know that my husband and I did the budget thing for years. Since moving to our rural property, I ditched the budget in favor of keeping track of monthly expenditures per the recommendation of the authors of Your Money Or Your Life.
You also know that I insist that anyone working toward specific financial goals should either use a budget or (easier) keep track of monthly spending.
So, I am not condoning a laissez-faire attitude toward money. If you fall into any of the following four categories, you should keep careful track of your spending.
**1. You have incurred credit card debt that has interest accruing every month because you can’t pay it off. (You need to discipline yourself to stop spending money you don’t have.)
**2. Your household income just meets your household’s monthly expenditure needs. You may have a little to spare, but you can’t make large purchases blindly because there’s a chance you’ll clean out – or get frighteningly close to cleaning out – your bank account.
**3. You are trying to get out of debt, build up a nest egg, or save for a specific large future purchase (car, cruise, down payment on a house, etc.).
**4. You are a natural spender (even if you’re good about not getting into debt, your unnecessary expenditures could be a detriment to your future).
The heavy chains of the poverty mentality
Even though my husband and I declared financial independence several years ago (in our early forties), I have continued to agonize over our spending.
- J’s car needs new tires? Aargh!
- The car insurance bill once again. *Sigh*
- I was hoping to spend under $1900 this month, but now we have to buy these garden supplies that are going to send us over that amount. WHAA!
Why? Why have I continued to stress out about how much we spend?
I was raised with a poverty mentality. By the time I was eleven or twelve years old, I quit asking my parents for things because the answer was inevitably, “We can’t afford it.” They weren’t blowing smoke just to get me (and my siblings) off their backs; my dad’s income was just at the government-designated poverty level, my mom quit her job when I was in third grade, and at one point they were in danger of losing our house.
I watched my mom cut coupons every week before she went grocery shopping, witnessed her passing the coupons to the cashier. My clothes usually came from garage/yard sales, and we didn’t get to do the things that our peers who lived in town – and whose dads worked for IBM and the Mayo Clinic – got to do.
I was never taught about investing. In my late teens taught myself how to save money because as a child of poor parents, I was going to have to pay my own way through college.
By the time I was going to college, I was chained fast to the poverty mentality, or fear of lack. It may not have taken me until age forty-seven to get free from that bondage, except for the car accident I was in at age twenty-four.
Long story short: an eighty year old woman sideswiped me, then sued me for damages.
It was the first time I considered suicide.
The good thing about was, a Dallas police officer witnessed the accident and knew that the old lady had been at fault. Also, my car insurance company paid for my legal representation in court.
The bad thing was, even though I ended up not having to pay the woman anything, I grew terrified that one day I would be sued again – and that time, lose. Not only lose my dignity and my good reputation, but lose my life savings. (Understand that in my mid-twenties, we’re talking under $4,000.)
From that time until I met J, I never allowed myself any frivolous spending. Okay, maybe a little bit – like houseplants and things like that – but I scrimped and saved, constantly living with the fear that one day, someone might try to take most of it away from me. And if they succeeded, I wanted to have enough left to feed and shelter myself.
After I married J, I let myself go a little more in the spending department. After all, he made twice the income as a computer programmer than I did as a teacher. I felt financially secure for the first time in my life.
Still, large expenses continued to stress me out. Having to pay a hospital bill to give birth after I’d already paid a midwife the same amount of money. Repairing one of the two A/C units in our suburban home (every single dadgum year!). Having our backyard fence rebuilt after a windstorm. And so on.
And then, just after we’d figured out we could be financially independent by 2011 or 2012 by the way our investments were growing, the crash of 2008 happened. At the time, J’s retirement was all in mutual funds. Like everyone else in mutual funds, we lost about 30% of our portfolio value.
Ouch. Discouragement and disappointment loomed high.
So I redoubled my efforts to save money. Joined an MLM company and started a blog, thinking I’d be able to retire my husband that way.
Eventually, our funds recovered most of the way, and we subsequently learned about the Permanent Portfolio and got of mutual funds a few months later. Finally, we declared financial independence in early 2013, and moved in 2014 having purchased our property in 2011.
Now my problem was: how well will the Permanent Portfolio work?
Why I am now free to not keep track of our spending
First: in summary, the Permanent Portfolio works. Marvelously. Since we moved almost four years ago, the interest we make on our investments averages what I had last received as a salary after thirteen years of teaching in a public school. This is basically what we were living on during our last four years in Plano – and it also happens to be more than one and a half times that which we have averaged in spending over the past four years here (not counting one-time biggies, like building a shed or finishing out our earth-sheltered house).
Second: J and I are both naturally frugal. Most of what we spend is necessary (food, items for gardening, and so on), and we don’t go crazy spending hundreds of dollars a month on “fun” stuff.
BUT…we can afford to spend around 1.5 times more than we have been doing!
Therefore, I decided not to sweat finances anymore. I am definitely enjoying this new level of freedom!